People/Web Search Calendar Emergency Info A-Z Index UVA Email   University of Virginia  

Admission Blog

Subscribe to Admission Blog feed
Dean J
Updated: 2 hours 18 min ago

Class of 2020 Application Essays Revisited

August 25, 2015
I share the UVa application essays for the next season each June on this blog. Traffic is often low at that time of year and since it is increasing, I thought I would show you where our questions appear.

Applicants will submit one essay with the main portion of the Common Application and then write short answers in response to two questions on the UVa screen within the Common App website. The first question you answer will depend on your answer to the question "To what school or program are you applying?" The second questions allows applicants to select a prompt from a list.

There was a point in time when Common App required every school using their application to put questions that required writing on a separate tab from their general questions. We quickly learned that some students didn't understand the connection between the question about choice of school and the first short answer question. There were also a slew of students who, despite us contacted them repeatedly about their incomplete application, never submitted the essay section. There were lots of complaints about the Common App being "too common" that year. Thankfully, Common App now lets each school decide if they wanted their essay questions to appear on the same screen as their general questions or on a separate tab. It makes much more sense for ours to appear right under the school choice question.

If you are applying to a few Common App schools, just know that some may still have their essay questions separated from their general questions and some will have combined the two. 

Do you have any questions about essays?

UVA's Policy on the New SAT

August 18, 2015
The SAT is changing again.

The last time the SAT changed, the writing exam stopped being a Subject Test (most selective schools required it) and a writing section was added to the regular SAT. Most schools adjusted pretty quickly to the change, though I have to admit that I never got used to hearing scores cited on the 2400 scale. So now we are poised for another round of changes that will affect students who are starting their junior year in high school and it's time we let them know how we'll be using their scores.

Take a TestLike most schools, we don't have a preference when it comes to the SAT and ACT. Now, we'll add "New SAT" and "Old SAT" to that statement. We want you to send the results from one of the standardized tests to us, but we don't care if you send the new SAT, the old SAT, or the ACT.

We Look at the Best Combination of SectionsIf you send scores from multiple administrations of the same exam, our computer system is programed to pull the best section scores for us to use.When I open an applicant's file, I don't see all of their scores. I just see the best score they've gotten for each section of the exams they submit. I totally made this up, but this is sort of what we see:

If a student sends both the SAT and the ACT, we'll favor the exam with the better score. Using the conversation chart on the ACT website, it looks like the student I made up for my exam did a little better on the ACT, so we would pretend that SAT I isn't there. We'll still use the score from the Biology subject test.

The College Board folks have told us that it is not appropriate to mix scores from the old SAT with ones from the new SAT. So, if you opt to take the new and old versions of the SAT, we will see both sets of scores.

Writing Sections Won't Be RequiredJuniors, we are not going to require you to take the writing section of this new SAT. Some day, we might add it back in, but we will wait to see some research about the exam to have that discussion. Because of this, we are going to drop our requirement that students taking the ACT take the writing portion.

Seniors, nothing changes for you. You will take the old SAT, which includes the writing section or you'll take the ACT with Writing.

If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments. You can also read posts I've written about testing in the past by click on the subject labels below.

How Many Advisers Does a College Applicant Need?

August 10, 2015
When I started working in admission, my dean told me that I shouldn't reveal what I do for a living at social gatherings. If I did, anyone with a college-bound student in the vicinity would spend the next hour quizzing me on admission practices. For a long time, I'd give vague answers to the "what do you do?" inquiries and it worked like a charm. But you know who gives advice when experts don't? People who aren't experts. There was a point when I changed my mind and was happy to tell people what I do and ecstatic when they pulled me aside to ask a few questions related to the college search.

With the application cycle starting again, another round of helpful advisers are about to emerge. The uncle who went to a school on your list, the neighbor who sent a student off to college a few years ago, and the friend of a friend who applied when they were in high school...they all step up to offer advice.

It's wonderful to get advice. In fact, I think it's foolish not to seek out a few trusted advisers as you navigate the college admission process. I hope you will be selective about who you allow on your team. Too many people chiming in can sometimes make you forget that your voice is the voice that we want to hear in your application.

Consistency in Extracurricular Activities

July 15, 2015
I've gotten several questions about how consistent our admission officers expect you to be when it comes to extracurricular activities. In case this is a concern of more students in our applicant pool, I thought I would address the topic on the blog.

I really think that people have overcomplicated things when it comes to activities. We want to see that our students will thrive and contribute in our community. The activity section is one of the areas that we use when we are making our assessment. Activities don't overshadow the other parts of the application, they are one piece of the puzzle.

It seems that people believe that applicants must show long-term commitment to activities. Perhaps this is because most college applications ask students to note the years during which they participated in an activity. We definitely look at that information, but we aren't fixated on seeing every activity during each year of high school. If you happen to have found an organization, club, or sport that you love very early in life and have maintained involvement in it for years, that's wonderful! If your involvement in extracurricular activities isn't consistent, that isn't a big deal to us. Sometimes, interests change and priorities evolve.

Please don't apologize if your activities haven't been long-term.There is room for all kinds of involvement here.
 Tennis ball retriever - 6/2008 to present